A homeless resident and a veteran with disabilities, arrested and prosecuted under the state anti-begging statute, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the City of Grand Rapids and its police department on September 13, 201 ...
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A homeless resident and a veteran with disabilities, arrested and prosecuted under the state anti-begging statute, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the City of Grand Rapids and its police department on September 13, 2011. The Statute criminalized all begging in public places, but its enforcement was not compulsory. The plaintiffs wanted to continue asking the public for employment or financial assistance but feared prosecution under the Statute. The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the ACLU, sought declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief, challenging the constitutionality of the Statute, both on the face and as applied. The plaintiffs alleged that the enforcement of the Statute resulted in violation of the plaintiffs' rights under the Freedom of Speech Clause, Equal Protection Clause, and Due Process Clause. They further alleged that the defendants failed to train, supervise, and discipline their personnel and officers to act in accordance with the Constitution.
On August 24, 2012, the District Court (Judge Robert J. Jonker) granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs. Speet v. Schuette, 889 F. Supp. 2d 969 (W.D. Mich. 2012). The Court concluded that the Statute, on its face, violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In his opinion, Judge Jonker found that the Statute was a content-based restriction on protected speech in public fora and it caused disparate treatment, so strict scrutiny applied. The defendants failed to demonstrate that the statute was narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest and thus it failed the test.
On September 13, 2012, the Court entered final judgment on these two counts and issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants and its personnel and officers from enforcing the Statute at issue, in response to the plaintiffs' stipulation. The defendants appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit. This case is ongoing. Emma Bao - 06/24/2013